Last night Matt and I dined on the famous French dish Beef Bourguignon, which we learned to cook in class. The common name in America is Beef Burgundy. It was savory, hearty, and delicious enough to inspire plate-licking (if you don’t happen to have biscuits around to soak up all the juices, which luckily we did).
There are recipes for this dish widely available, so I won’t go into too much detail. But basically it is lean cubed beef, browned in a dutch oven, then simmered long and slow in red wine, brown stock, carrots, onions, and some bacon (of course). It cooks for 2-3 hours at a simmer, in the oven. At the end sauteed mushrooms, glazed pearl onions, and a dash of Brandy are stirred in.
Five months ago, a recipe like this would have intimidated me, but now we have done so many stews that it was actually quite easy. I have learned that the key to a rich brown stew is the initial browning of the meat, (browning the exterior, not cooking completely) and base vegetables (your mirepoix) in the same pot and oil over medium high heat. Brown them separately so that the pot is not overcrowded. and browning occurs evenly. This method retains all those little flavor bits that the vegetables and meat give off in the browning process, the French call those bits fond. When the stew liquid, stock and wine, is added to the pot after browning the vegetables it is important to scrape the bottom of the pot to release the fond into the stew. Add back the meat you browned and set aside, bring the stew to a very brief boil, then lower the heat and simmer long and slow.
Sounds incredible? It is. YUM. We used cheap red wine to cook – but I can imagine that using a Burgundy wine would elevate this dish to an even higher level of savoriness. I served it up in deep bowls with homemade buttermilk biscuits and a bottle of 1999 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the second most perfect wine pairing (first would have been a Burgundy) since the dry and tannic Cabernet wine helps to balance the richness of the stew. This is a trick I learned in my wine fundamentals class.
The Good: Lean beef is used, as well as vegetables. Bacon fat is used, but only a small amount for flavor making this dish, potentially low in fat. If after cooking you chill the stew to bring the fat to the surface, you can skim it off and serve it up very lean.
The Bad: One can potentially go overboard in the bacon fat use as well as using butter to saute the mushrooms and glaze the onions. That would contribute saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol.
Recommendations: This is a great, savory, rich and hearty beef stew that you can make on your own with very lean beef. Make sure you simmer the stew – only bring it to a boil briefly then cook over very low heat the rest of the time. This prevents the beef from becoming tough. Use bacon in moderation – a little goes a long way to flavor. When sauteing the mushrooms, use a bit of olive oil only in a non-stick pan. Glaze the pearl onions in broth. Follow these slight modifications and will save many calories, and lower the saturated fat and cholesterol as well. Follow the key tips for stewing. Once you have done it a couple of times, it becomes second nature. Try it when you can commit the time and you will be rewarded. Delicious!